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mistysakura
1st May 2007, 02:44 AM
The Fanfiction Forum E-zine
May 2007

Ramblings from the Editor
mistysakura

Another month has passed on the planet of Fanfic. It’s been a fairly eventful month, following the departure of veteran mod dratinihaunter13 and the welcoming of our newest mod, darktyranitar. We’ll miss dh, and Fanfic won’t be the same without him, but it’s awesome to have darktyranitar on board.

In other news, May will see the launch (or rather, relaunch, for those of you who were here the first time around) of the secret operation we alluded to in the last issue: the Fanfic Forum Writing Contests. I won’t elaborate too much on this here, as you can check out the topic yourself, but we’re hoping that this will be an opportunity to have some fun while competing for bragging rights. Everyone is most welcome. Other things still going on include the Fanfic Trivia Game and Smiley Town (which would love a bit more chat and sunshine).

This issue brings to you:


Conversations with the Stars – Gavin Luper
Chris 2.0

A Defense of Fanfiction
mistysakura

The Grammar Nazi – Rolling Stop
mr_pikachu

That’s all from me. Have fun reading.



Conversations with the Stars – Gavin Luper
Chris 2.0

Wow, this feels weird. I’ve never done an interview before. I think it would be fair to say that the name Gavin Luper is unfamiliar to few in Fanfic and TPM itself. Do you agree?

Heh. Well - I suppose so. In Fanfic, at least. Just cause I've been hanging out there for so long ... plus, I'm kind of inescapable there cause I patrol the halls with my mod whacking stick. (Sorry guys.) When I do venture outside of my usual haunts it's mostly to misc to have a squiz at the usual political/religious/assorted crap that goes on there, which is always fun. Um ... what was the question?

Luckily for you I've completely forgotten myself. Let’s move on. How long have you been writing for?

Since ... forever! That's not much of an exaggeration either, really. I was seven years old when it first struck me that I wanted to be an author - not that I just wanted to dabble in that, but that it was what I wanted to be. I started writing my first 'book' then, it was a boarding school story adventure, very old-fashioned and in the vein of Enid Blyton's school stories. But I enjoyed it so much, and got quite a way in - well over fifty or sixty pages - which is no simple feat for someone in year three at school! I've been writing ever since, and my writing has grown and changed all the way, and yet simultaneously, stayed the same as it was when I was seven. I intend to be writing for a very, very, very long time - the rest of my life, that is.

In short - your answer is 'about eleven years'.

Wow. Eleven years? Impressive stuff. But let’s talk about what is evidently your most accomplished fic to date, Lisa the Legend. How long have you been writing LTL? I think most people here have watched the fic grow, evolve, gain depth and speed during their time at TPM.

This is the kind of topic I could really talk about at length, because I feel so invested In both the characters and the plot I've created in Lisa the Legend. I'll try to keep it realistic. I started LTL back in November 2001 - yeah, that long ago - and posted it on TPM on December 1 that year. Since then, mate, it's changed so much, I don't know if you could compare the stuff I wrote then to what I'm doing now. Not that I think I'm particularly competent now, but back then I was comparatively very inexperienced. LTL was only the second time I had exposed my writing to a proper audience, so I had never really learned the lessons that young writers need to learn. Characterization, description, believability - it didn't mean anything to me at all. At least recently I've been making an effort to work on those things; lately I've been working harder to improve my writing and lift my game a bit.

Could you tell us about the devising process behind LTL?

When I first started LTL there was no real plan. It was just one of many simple trainer fics I seemed to write in my spare time. Once I started posting it here, and got some pretty realistic criticism, I realised two important things: firstly, it had the potential to be something very, very cool and fun; and secondly, if that was ever going to happen, I needed to really work at it.

So work at it I did, and work at it I do. I've made several whole-fic plans and reams of background notes month after month, year after year, to keep pushing LTL forwards. I'm always going over my notes; always re-doing, re-writing, re-planning. I'm always seeking the right formula that will actually make LTL what I want it to be. This makes me sound driven, but that's probably not accurate, cause I'm not that systematic about it. I don't devise LTL in order to get a response, although hearing back from my readers is one of the awesomest experiences of all. It really is a personal thing; the end result of an old promise to myself that I would finish what I started, because writing a fanfic is unique. It's not like writing a professional novel. There's no pressure to perform or to make something hard-hitting: it's a chance to play around, experiment, train yourself and your skills; to improve and get better at your own pace. With LTL, the development from basic trainer fic to a more complex action/adventure/mystery was the result of some imagination, a lot of plot-weaving, scores of times in which I threw my pen down in utter frustration - and very regular, very helpful moments of realising that I wasn't nearly as good as I sometimes thought I was.

Plus, evidently, the ability to crap on about things that interest me. Sorry dude.

Not at all - I think it's our enthusiasm for our work that is the most amazing part of being a writer. But you've had other fics aside from Lisa The Legend. Can you tell us some more about them?

Sure. I've had a few over the years. My very first fic here was Pokemon: Kohtu - a simple, very traditional trainer fic about ... I can't remember the main character's name ... I think he was called Mike. I had heaps of fun writing it, eventually completing about 80 or more (short) chapters in a few months, though I only posted about 4 here. I got some pretty blunt criticism about it that helped a lot. Next was LTL. Then in the summer of 01/02 I posted The Crystal League, a trainer fic which was quite successful. People really seemed to dig the first-person narration and kick-arse character of Bryan Nolan ("Ryan Noloh?") and I would have liked to followed his journey further, to see where his character was going to go, but I only ever wrote about ten chapters. Still, I seem to repost TCL every couple of years, so one day I might surprise myself and finish it, who knows? Other than that, there's been many sporadic fics, but none of them have lasted very long because I usually found myself focusing on real life, schoolwork and LTL more than a secondary fic. Still, some readers might remember fics like: ~Zephyr~, a four-part fic about how Falkner became the leader of Violet City Gym, which I never finished (I'm pretty sure I posted it waaay back); Dane Orion, an original real-life action fiction set in Glasgow (I still like the concept for this one); one or maybe two versions of an action story called The First March (I like this one even more); a very Australian-esque fic called Only Human; and a very original trainer fic called The Chain of Destiny which sadly never went past the first chapter - though I reckon it could have been very successful if I'd stuck with it; people seemed to really like it, too. My last efforts were in 2005, with The Keystone Conspiracy and Holloway. Both fics were poorly thought-out, both received a cold reception, and both were swiftly abandoned. Wow, that's actually quite a few fics there. But in any case, all's been quiet on the secondary fic front for a long time, though I sometimes think about restarting TCL or The Chain of Destiny, which I still might do. In the last few weeks I've been playing around with a new fic, though whether I post that or not is uncertain at this stage.

What else can we expect from you after Lisa The Legend is completed?

In all honesty, probably not a lot. I always said that I would stay here until I finished Lisa the Legend, and then I'd be off. I still think that will happen. I'm focusing my energies on completing LTL, then after that I really want to move on to some real novels that I want to get published. I might post some one-shots or my aforementioned new fic, but more than likely, the end of LTL will be the end of my time here. It looks to be a while off yet, though.

I see. And finally, to round up the interview nicely, what else can fans expect in the future installments of Lisa The Legend?

Without being too cliché: the unexpected. Chapter 61 is going to get things moving for Book Three, and with that is going to come a kind of relaunch, because it sets the scene for the new book. It's all pretty exciting for me at this stage because I'm plotting the entire book before I post anything further - that's what's taking so long. But when the chapters start flowing again, people can expect the story to come into its own at last; it feels to me that these new chapters really suit the direction LTL has been shifting towards for so long. I don't want to give anything away in terms of plot, but I'll tell you a couple of things: You can expect Lisa to still be reeling quite badly from her ordeal (Chapter 60 hinted at this) - the repercussions of what happened on Mt Fairfax are going to be huge, not just for her but for everyone. Character-wise, Lisa's going to become much closer to Marina and Darius, and there are some new characters - some good, some bad, some in-between. And Lisa will finally be properly acquainted with the organisation known as 'the Guard'. But that's really all I can say for now - I know, it's nothing much, but hopefully that's enough to keep people guessing until the next chapter comes out - hopefully within the next couple of months.

Sounds good! Thanks for the interview Gavin!

Cheers Chris, it was great fun.



A Defense of Fanfiction
Or, why we write about Pogeymans instead of getting a life
mistysakura

Oh, the trials of fanfiction! Just when you’re happily procrastinating by catching up on Lisa’s latest adventures, a shadow stalks past your seat at the library computer. In a flash, you switch to an innocuous Google window (created for this very purpose), lest the mysterious stranger catches a glimpse of It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named: ‘Pokémon’. Or a friend picks up a manuscript fallen out of your bag, which you have spent hours tirelessly scribbling and editing to perfection. “Is that… fanfiction?” An awkward pause as passers-by raise their eyebrows in unison. “No, just a creative writing assignment,” you mumble as the manuscript is stuffed in your bag, never to see the light of day again (until you find a secluded corner and tenderly smooth out its creases in silent apology). Fanfiction, thou art fortune’s fool – loved by familiars, spurned by strangers, outwardly rejected by fans and foes alike. It is time for us in the know to set aside shame and defend the virtues of our oft-neglected and shunned friend.

The most common misconception is that fanfiction, well, ‘sucks’ (such stunning vocabulary). People don’t even bother to defend this oh-so-obvious statement; fanfiction is just dismissed as the rambling of obsessed fans with nothing better to do than write sagas featuring their favourite fantasised characters. Well, the last time I checked, ‘real’ fiction authors didn’t write about real people either. More importantly, proponents of this view have committed a logical fallacy known as ‘hasty generalisation’. In other words, “50.0001% of fanfiction is bad. Therefore, fanfiction sucks.” Alternatively, “all the fanfiction I’ve read is bad. Therefore, fanfiction sucks.” These arguments don’t hold up. It is highly unlikely that the people behind these statements have read enough fanfiction, or indeed any fanfiction, to justify their generalisation. Furthermore, for every piece of terrible fanfiction there is a brilliant counterpart (okay, I exaggerate; the ratio is perhaps ten-to-one). Since there are many such examples on this forum, I feel I am stating the obvious.

Even then, one may ask: isn’t it bad enough that most fanfiction is bad? Even the most enthusiastic fanficcers will admit that many works are not exactly stellar. It would be great to see a rise in the quality of fanfiction. However, it is hardly fair to compare fanfiction to the quality of published fiction, considering that only the best works are published while anyone can scribble a few pages and call it fanfiction. Moreover, most fanfiction writers only dabble in the art of writing, and are still working hard to improve. They do not have resources such as editors fairly available. So what can we compare the quality of fanfiction to fairly? Amateur original fiction seems to be the closest match. Browsing through original fiction on the internet, it seems that most of it is of the same standard as most fanfiction. In other words, the presence of card duelling does not magically make a piece of writing inferior. Thus it can be seen that attacks on the quality of fanfiction are unfounded. But what has fanfiction ever done to deserve this?

Poor, misunderstood fanfiction has a bad image because of us writers. Yes, us. Or rather, what ‘normal’ people attempt to infer about us from our works. Firstly, the whole concept that someone could like an anime or book enough to write hundreds of pages about it can seem quite alien. Unfortunately, the masses prove more imaginative than us writers here; most of us are simply normal people who enjoy writing and use fanfiction as a convenient platform to develop our ideas. As for the truly obsessed among us… well, it can only be a good thing that we have a creative outlet other than cosplaying. Secondly, some of the stuff we write is a bit strange. Violence, ‘emo’ scenes, ‘slash’, Dobby/ Giant Squid pairings… makes people wonder about our sanity, doesn’t it? Rest assured, we just have vivid imaginations. Besides, are all characters in ‘real’ books pacifists? Do ‘normal’ writers never write about angst? Why is it fine for a homosexual relationship to appear in a book, but not okay to write about Remus and Sirius kissing? (Dobby/ Giant Squid shippers… I do question your sanity.) Fanfiction is no stranger than fiction. If more people realised that, we wouldn’t be hiding.

The final, and perhaps most valid, criticism of fanfiction is that it inhibits the development of writers. It is claimed that using characters and setting others have created is the easy way out, and is against the whole spirit of fiction – to create something new. It is also asserted that the large amount of fanfiction which merely imitates the original game or anime does nothing to develop a writer’s sense of originality. Some also argue that some writers become so mesmerised in the world of fanfiction that they have no desire to broaden their views and delve into other types of fiction. This is all true to some extent. However, fanfiction can only restrict a writer’s creativity if the writer allows it. For the determined, fanfiction can be a great tool to hone one’s skills. New writers often find it less confronting to write about characters and plotlines which already exist, rather than creating a whole world from scratch. Once comfortable with writing, it becomes easier to exercise more creativity, especially with the help of like-minded fanficcers. In fact, in some fandoms there is arguably more emphasis on originality than in ‘original fiction’, simply because everyone is sick of reading the same thing over and over again. One finds out very quickly what’s acceptable (with blatant shoves in the right direction). Creativity isn’t necessarily about creating something out of nothing. Building on existing concepts, such as those found in games or books, requires creativity as well. And if one needed further persuasion, think of all the people who became interested in writing because of fanfiction, because they wanted to write about what they liked. Criticising fanfiction for stifling creativity is a bit like blaming Harry Potter for children not reading literary classics. If it weren’t for fanfiction, many would not have begun writing extensively at all.

Now that the rebuttal is over, I recall I promised to extol the virtues of fanfiction. Fanfiction writers find themselves in a very supportive environment (most of the time anyway). They are brought together by common interest and thus are able to give specific constructive feedback. In that sense, a fanfiction website is like a writing society for a very narrow genre. Instead of a fantasy writers’ club, you have a fantasy-which-happens-to-occur-in-Middle-Earth-and-involves-hobbits writers’ club. Because of this common interest, everyone can enjoy reading each others’ writing and relate to the same writing issues, whether they be general, such as writer’s block, or genre-specific, such as “argh my description of my made-up Pokemon sounds like a cross between a Jynx and a Magikarp”. As every fanfiction writer is on equal footing (have yet to meet a professional fanficcer), we can all learn from each other’s writing and comments.

Fanfiction is not written by the disturbed. It is not ‘real’ fiction’s ugly stepsister. It is a tool for developing writers, a step towards bigger and better (?) things. Most importantly, fanfiction is an emotional investment and makes us laugh and despair. It makes us happy. Perhaps we should come out of our virtual closets. Instead of hiding that writing pad, ask your friends for some constructive criticism (and laugh at the bewildered expressions on their faces). Be at ease with the nosy computer user looking over your shoulder. It is up to us to stand in defense of fanfiction. We control the face of fanfiction – it is only ‘just fanfiction’ if we wish it to be.



The Grammar Nazi – Rolling Stop
mr_pikachu


(The Grammar Nazi is not affiliated in any way with Nazi Germany or Adolf Hitler.)

One of the most misunderstood punctuation marks is the semicolon. For one thing, many people neglect to use them at all, as they are often considered unnecessary tools for constructing a sentence. In fact, children are sometimes warned to avoid them until they become more experienced writers; this has the unintended effect of restraining them from the mark entirely. (Or perhaps it is intended. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “Do not use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite-hermaphrodites.”)

The other problem is the semicolon’s connotation as a “super comma.” This does not mean the two are interchangeable, but some people wrongly believe such. We will examine the true meaning of this term later in the column.


A semicolon has three main uses in a sentence. It can first be used to separate two independent clauses that lack a conjunction between them, as follows:

They bought a carton of eggs; one of them was broken.

As you can see, either side of the semicolon is a complete thought that could just as easily be a sentence. Consider this adaptation:

They bought a carton of eggs. One of them was broken.

Since this still works grammatically, it is clear that both clauses are independent. You may choose to separate them either with a semicolon or a period, and the clauses are therefore either joined into one sentence or separated into two.


A semicolon can also join two independent clauses if they are joined by a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb. (Note that neither is the same thing as a conjunction.) This is easier to explain given a few examples.

Transitional phrase: I went to the store after midnight; to my relief, it was still open.

As you can see, “to my relief” is certainly not a conjunction. It serves as a transitional phrase and should thus be preceded by a semicolon rather than a period. Notice, also, that a comma follows the transitional phrase. This helps indicate the phrase’s purpose. If the comma was not present, the phrase could instead be treated similarly to a conjunction.

Conjunctive adverb: I won the game; however, John still laughed at me.

Conjunctive adverbs are a bit more difficult to define, as they share almost everything with conjunctions other than the part of speech to which they belong. Furthermore, the list of conjunctions is currently undergoing debate and modification. The critical idea to remember is that conjunctive adverbs are adverbs, while conjunctions are considered particles.

In general, most conjunctions that join two independent clauses have three or fewer letters, while the conjunctive adverbs do not. If nothing else, you can rely on that idea for most general usage and only resort to a list for your most serious work.


Finally, a semicolon acts as a divider for a list, but only if the items within a list contain commas. For instance, you might have a list of cities:

I have been to Ontario, Canada; Cleveland, Ohio; Orlando, Florida; and a few countries in South America.

In this list, some of the items contain commas (“Ontario, Canada,” “Cleveland, Ohio,” and “Orlando, Florida”). If commas were also used to divide the items, it would look as if Ontario, Canada, Cleveland, Ohio, Orlando, and Florida were all separate items. Since that’s not what you mean, you have to use a different divider that is considered stronger than the commas. That’s why you use a semicolon here. (And that’s also why the semicolon is sometimes called a “super comma.”)


As you may have guessed from some of these explanations, the semicolon is a complicated tool. It can be difficult to use it properly, especially since people constantly disagree on exactly what that “proper” way is.

You could choose to ignore it entirely, as Vonnegut says, and just write so that you don’t need the semicolon. But there are times when it may look better to use a semicolon rather than split a sentence in two or try to connect things with a comma. Even if it’s only an aesthetic improvement, you may want to use a semicolon at some point. (Besides, aren’t aesthetics the essence of art, anyway? Shouldn’t you want to improve your craft?)

So it’s good to try using semicolons in your work from time to time so that you can learn. Yes, you’ll probably use them incorrectly sometimes, and people may even tell you that. But in the end, if you can’t take criticism and improve from it, why on earth would you want to write in the first place?



http://img125.imageshack.us/img125/192/dilbertkeyboardij6.gif


Closing Comments

I’d like to thank Chris 2.0, mr_pikachu and Gavin Luper for their contributions to this issue. Obviously, without them, it would be a very empty e-zine indeed. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the e-zine – just PM one of the mods. For those of you who missed Lady Vulpix’s monthly interview, it will return next month.

Signing off,
mistysakura

Weasel Overlord
1st May 2007, 03:26 AM
Why is it fine for a homosexual relationship to appear in a book, but not okay to write about Remus and Sirius kissing?
Mistysakura: for this comment, I will worship at your feet forever.

And Brian. Just for talking about clauses, I will be forever your adoring, language-obsessed slave.

darktyranitar
1st May 2007, 04:05 AM
Be at ease with the nosy computer user looking over your shoulder

Yeah... I guess you can call me the the kind of writer that aren't too comfortable with that kind of people. Great article.

The grammar nazi topic is good as usual, Brian. And nice comic strip ^^

Gavin Luper
1st May 2007, 05:15 AM
Great work on this issue, Ada, it was superb. Brian's Grammar Nazi article was a helpful read for me, as semi-colons have always seemed like something of a grey area: I can use them alright most of the time, but I never really understood the rules behind it. Also, I'm glad to see Chris's interview fitted into the issue - I thought I might have waffled on too much.

The best thing about this issue, though, was your article, "A Defence of Fanfiction". Not only could I relate to it, the points made were all balanced and relevant, realistic and presented clearly and logically. It was very well-written, too: you have a real knack for writing articles. It made for really engaging, thought-provoking reading. Brilliant stuff.

Cheers!

mr_pikachu
1st May 2007, 02:54 PM
I read Chris' interview of Gavin and thought, "Man, that's good work. Ada's gonna have a hard time topping that."

Then I read Ada's article.

Wow. You clearly spent way more time on that than I did on my column. That was... fluid! Loads of good points and counterpoints, all meshed together in a perfect logical structure that guided us cleanly from one topic to the next. Not to mention some witticisms, like the "Dobby/Giant Squid" thing. Awesome work, Ada, both with the E-zine as a whole and with your article. Stellar work!

mistysakura
1st May 2007, 08:25 PM
... cool. I wasn't expecting such an awsome reception. When I was writing it, I was thinking "I don't have anything real to say. Let's go style over substance all the way!" (Hey that rhymes.) So I was consciously making the thing entertaining to cover up the lack of content. And apparently it does actually have some content! Woot!

Weasel: you're welcome. :) I thought of you when I wrote that sentence.

Faiz: yeah actually I was a total hypocrite in that quote. I can't stand people looking over my shoulder, even when I'm just doing maths or whatever. But I think I'd be more concerned that someone was looking while I was wriing (the thought itself scares me), rather than because it was Pokemon.

Gavin: speechless. (Actually, I lie. I like rambling on about myself.) Anyway, hehe, it's no coincidence that you related to my article. I have to thank you for it. No, it isn't some creepy 'you inspired me' thing. It's just that when I was desparately trying to find something to write about, I thought of this: "writing a fanfic is unique. It's not like writing a professional novel. There's no pressure to perform or to make something hard-hitting: it's a chance to play around, experiment, train yourself and your skills; to improve and get better at your own pace." And it all went from there. Actually, that seems to happen quite a bit; for the last article I wrote I can pinpoint the exact point where my thinking took off in a whole new direction and pulled me out of the misery that was the first version of the article. It was something Weasel said about it being hard to write something new in fanfiction.

But anyway. Brian: yeah I probbly spent more time on my article than you did on yours, but only because I write slowly. Very slowly. And I get distracted easily. Effort-wise... eh.

Response to the rest of the e-zine: I love semi-colons. :P They should definitely get used more. They help stuff mesh together better. And I was really impressed with the interview. I like reading about people rambling on about things they're interested in. It'd be kind of hypocritical for me not to. Anyway, it was intersting to read about how LTL was devised and stuff, and how you (Gavin) have evolved as a writer. Not to mention a bit surreal, given the timing of when I read the article. Given that I haven't been here nearly as long as you have, it's strange that I remember most of the fics you mentioned. Probably thanks to many reposts. :P